- of or relating to geriatrics, old age, or aged persons.
So why do my maternity notes start with that word?
I am not old, I am forty. FORTY. It's not the age I imagined I would start a family, and for the record it wasn't for a lack of trying, but I am not old. Am I?
Geri Horner / Halliwell has just announced she's pregnant at 44 - who looks at her and thinks 'old'?
I'm not saying I look like a former Spice Girl, I don't, and for the record I never did, but what does 'old' mean?
I may no longer be as thin, as well put-together, as organised, as carefree or as full of energy as I was in my thirties but that is because I now have two babies, not because I am 'old'. My house is a mess, I am a mess, my life is a mess but that's all part of being a mum isn't it?
I look (and feel) more tired, but that's because I've not had a decent night's sleep in over a year, not because I am old.
So today the headlines are full of joy for Geri, but how long before the discussion on older mums begins again in earnest? How old is too old? She'll be 65 on her baby's 21st birthday etc. I was kind of hoping it might be twins, if only for the headline "Geri-hat-trick!" though that would of course, have raised the issue of IVF and that's a whole other can of worms to open up (again!)
It's not as if she's alone either. More women now have babies over the age of 40 than under the age of 20. We are not an exclusive club!
Apart from the glare of the media, Geri will undoubtedly have Drs keeping a close eye on her too until baby Horner arrives. I had a high-risk pregnancy for many reasons, so I had a few more appointments than most - apparently to give me extra reassurance. In fact all they did was terrify me. Each appointment added another unseemly label to what I had thought was a very natural state of carrying a baby (or two!)
I learned I had incompetent cervix (another well-chosen description), twins are classed as an abnormal pregnancy, and my risk of life-threatening complications was much higher than most.
So at my most emotional, vulnerable and terrified I find out I am old, incompetent, having an abnormal pregnancy and more likely to die or lose one / both of my babies than any of the other women in the waiting room. Yes, very reassuring, thank you!
I know the statistics show there are more risks when you become a mum later in life, but do they justify terrifying mums who, let's face it, are often already terrified at the responsibility of growing, protecting and caring for a brand new baby?
Aren't all mums?
It probably is harder to cope with sleepless nights and chasing toddlers in your 40s than your 30s, the risks to mum and baby are higher, so shouldn't we help and support these mums rather than pour a cupful of terror into the boiling pot of excitement and fear they're already facing? Why can't we celebrate their bravery at taking on a challenge which they know will be harder for them than it would have been 10 years ago?
No one looks at exhausted marathon runners with bleeding feet and says "you should have taken a taxi". Anyone watched Bear Grylls consuming unmentionables and said "you should have brought a packed lunch"?
Let's support mums, all mums, but especially the ones who find their journey to motherhood and beyond might be that little bit tougher.
Congratulations Geri, from one geriatric mum to another ... You've got this 💋